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  • Writer's pictureLaverne Banderk

8 Ways to Get Creative in Your Kitchen While Quarantined

Are you getting bored in your kitchen? Have you baked everything you can bake during this quarantine? Getting sick of the same old meals? Need some fresh ideas? I hear you, so I've put together a few ideas to help you get creative in your kitchen and maybe try something new.

Make your own plant-based milks

If you've never made your own nut or plant-based milks at home, now is a great time to give it a try! You don't even need to go out and buy all of the materials like a nut milk bag or fancy glass storage jars. You can make milks that do not need to be strained, and any type of storage container works as long as you can pour from it. Two of my favourites include:

Hemp Milk - all you need is a blender, hemp seeds, and water. No soaking or straining necessary! Simply blend 1/2 cup hemp seeds and 3 cups of water in a high speed blender for about 1-2 minutes. Optional add-ins include a sweetener (1-2 medjool dates, 1 tbsp maple syrup or agave), 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1-2 tbsp cacao powder for chocolate milk (plus a sweetener). Enjoy in smoothies, with granola or cereal, or in baking, and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Almond Milk made with almond butter - when you use almond butter instead of almonds, there is no soaking or straining required. Simply blend 3 tbsp of almond butter with 3 cups of water and enjoy! Store in the fridge and use within about 5 days. You can also use a different nut butter, like cashew, or seed butter, like tahini.

Bake your own bread

There are so many reasons to bake your own bread - it's easy, it's cheap, it will definitely be fresh, no added harmful preservatives, and you will know exactly what's in it by customizing it with your own mix of healthy ingredients. There are so many great whole wheat bread recipes out there that make the process so simple and fun, like this one.

If you prefer banana bread, it's also very easy to make your own, and make it much healthier than store-bought with a few ingredient swaps. You can find my favourite banana bread recipe right here on my website.

Bagels are another great bread item that is very easy to make yourself. No special pan is required, simply shape your dough into a ball, poke a hole in the middle to form the bagel shape and bake on a pan. One of my favourite bagel recipes is this paleo seedy bagel.

Sprout your own greens

Have you ever tried sprouting your own greens? It's very simple, no soil required, and a fun project for the kids to get involved in. You can technically regrow just about any fruit, vegetable, or herb from scraps or seeds. But, I find the easiest and most useful are the foods we tend to use a lot such as green onions and lettuce, that don't require much time, dirt or space to regrow.

To sprout green onions, simply take the leftover green onion roots, place them in a tall glass with the roots pointing down and enough water to just cover them. Change the water every few days and within about 7-10 days you'll have a new bunch of green onions. Lettuce is very similar, take the heart of the lettuce, place it in a jar/container with about 1/2 inch of water, and store it in some sunlight. Change the water every couple of days and within a few days you will have new leaves growing.

Crack open an old cookbook you haven't used in a while

We all have them, that collection of cookbooks in the back of a cupboard that have been forgotten. Well, now is the time to pull them out, dust them off, and rediscover some old favourite recipes and maybe even discover some new ones! A classic older cookbook is The Joy of Cooking, which I'm sure many of us have tucked away somewhere, filled with great timeless recipes and valuable cooking tips. Two of my more recent favourites include The Joyous Cookbook and The Healthnut Cookbook.

Make jam out of berries and pesto out of veggies

Store-bought jams can be filled with added sugars and preservatives, so why not make your own? All you need are 4 ingredients and about 10 minutes of your time. Simply heat up about 2 cups of berries (fresh or frozen) in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until bubbling and the berries begin to breakdown, then start to mash them up. Stir in 1 tbsp of maple syrup (or honey), 1 tbsp lemon juice, and 2 tbsp chia seeds, until well combined, then remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken. Store in the fridge for up to one week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

The same goes for pestos, making your own is simple and avoids unhealthy fats and preservatives. Traditionally, pestos are made with basil, but many other greens, such as spinach or kale (even celery tops!) can be used as well. Simply, add a handful of greens, a chopped garlic clove or two, a few sun-dried tomatoes, 1-2 tbsp pine nuts or walnuts, 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, and maybe some parmesan cheese to a food processor, blend well, taste and adjust ingredients, if necessary.

Meal plan focusing on family favourites

Taking this extra time you have at home to meal plan will definitely reduce your trips to the grocery store and make meal times less stressful. Get the whole family involved - set aside an hour to sit down together, plan for the week ahead, and get the kids working on their spreadsheet skills by making a table that summarizes each day's meals and snacks. Let everyone pick a favourite meal or two along with some snacks that they would like to enjoy during the week, and have them help make it when it's time for their meal.

Try some new foods

A new fruit, vegetable, a different herb or spice, a new grain, maybe a plant-based protein - whatever you choose, get the family involved and commit to trying something new every week or two. Research different ways to cook it or enjoy it, learn how you prefer to eat it, and hopefully you discover a new favourite food! But, if not, that's okay, it may take a while to learn to like a new food, or the particular way you like to eat it. Try this for a couple of months and see how many new foods you and your family can add to your diet!

You may not be able to go out for dinner, but you can still dress for it

This idea was inspired by Joyous Health and her "Fancy Fridays" while in quarantine. Change out of your sweats, take your hair out of that bun, get dressed up, and enjoy a Fancy Friday or a Special Saturday meal. Get the kids to set a pretty table (table cloth, the "good" dishes, light some candles, practise their origami skills with the napkins), and dim the lights to set the mood. Make a special meal that you may not have very often, or better yet....order out (might as well make it as similar to a restaurant as possible)!

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